American-born Vic Wild gave Russia a gold medal in the men’s snowboard parallel giant slalom. Wild, 27, became a Russian citizen in 2012 after marrying former world champion Alena Zavarzina of Russia.
Wild claims that he was unable to afford to train in the U.S. so he turned to Russia for a shot at Olympic gold.
“I want to thank Russia for giving me the opportunity to win a gold medal,” Wild said after his win, telling reporters that though he now lives in Moscow he has not learned to speak Russian. “My teammates helped me so much. I don’t think many of them like me, but I really appreciate it.”
His Russian wife, Alena Zavarzina, took bronze in the same event just moments before.
Wild and Zavarzina are not the first married couple to take medals in the same Olympic event for men and women. Raphael Poiree of France won bronze and Liv Grete Poiree of Norway took silver as members of their nations’ biathlon relay teams at the 2002 Salt Lake City Games.
“My wife and I won medals, you can’t ask for more,” Wild said. “I was so stoked. I would rather we both have a medal than just one of us.”
This was Russia’s its first Olympic gold medal in a snowboard event.
Even Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev got into the act, releasing a statement on the government’s website saying “you confirmed your mastery and status as one of the best snowboarders on the planet.”
Wild, a native of White Salmon, Washington, said he harbors no ill will toward the U.S. Olympic Committee and the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association.
“I didn’t have the support I needed,” he said. “The USOC and the USSA do a great job, but not everyone can be happy. I don’t hold a grudge. I am here now doing what I want to do, and it’s all good.